Body

The best way to survive the festive season according to a naturopath

Naturopath and Golden Yogi founder Erin O’Hara shares her top tips for looking after your body and mind over the silly season without having to sacrifice the treats – hooray!

Christmas is just around the corner and with it comes the joys of New Zealand summers at the beach, the relaxation or adventure of the holidays and of course spending quality time with your loved ones.
On the other hand it can also be a time when, as the name suggests, people can begin to get a bit 'silly', life becomes busier and there can be a lot more balls to juggle.
Extra activities, work deadlines, school holidays and the financial pressures and family dynamic navigating of Christmas – it's not hard to understand why many people feel ready to collapse into a heap by the time the holidays actually arrive, and that's hardly the way you want to end the year.
The festive season can be a time of joy for most, but with it can also come additional pressure, which, if not managed can leave you feeling exhausted - hardly how you want to end the year. (Image: Getty)
Thankfully, Golden Yogi founder and qualified naturopath Erin O'Hara has some simple tips to help you survive the festive season and maintain a healthy mind and body, without sacrificing the treats.

Build a good foundation

Like just about anything, you want to ensure you have a strong foundation to support the amazing things to follow and the same can be said when it comes to preparing for the festive season.
"The main foundation for keeping healthy and the best way to maintain your wellness is looking at your eating," Erin explains.
"And that can really take care of the physical body."
But before you think this means waving goodbye to the delicious decadent foods and tipple, Erin says there's no reason why you should feel you can't indulge – just ensure a healthy foundation is set to help support the treat foods.
"How we can manage that is keeping your everyday diet as healthy as you can," Erin says.
"Working on that 80/20 principle where you're getting a lot of good nutrition in when you have the choice and then when you do have those parties where there is extra alcohol or a lot of extra processed food or extra sweet treats.
"Your body can then cope with it a lot better if you're eating really well the rest of the day."
Eating according to the 80/20 principle helps you not feel too restricted with your food choices and stops you feeling guilty when you do indulge. (Image: Getty)
She adds it does require a bit of self-restraint the following day when the hangover hits you, as it can be tempting to load up on junk food or coffee. Her suggestion is getting a green smoothie down you the following day which will give the body nutrients and help the body cleanse and detox faster.
She says if you can build a healthy balanced everyday diet full of whole foods, it'll help you immensely throughout the holiday season.

Keep moving

Exercise and self-care are usually some of the first things to drop off the to-do list when things get busy, but Erin stresses they're both some of the most crucial ways to help you keep your cool under pressure and keep you energised.
If you're feeling sluggish or tired, exercise helps to boost your energy and boost your circulation and lymphatic flow which will also help with detoxification - something which Erin says will be incredibly helpful if you're having extra food or alcohol than usual.
It's also a great way to de-stress Erin says.
"Exercise, yoga and meditation are great ways for allowing you to de-stress, clear the mind and you'll actually be more productive with your work and all your extra commitments if you take time for yourself," she shares.
Make sure to keep moving, whether that be a morning run or simply making the most of summer with a swim in the sea. (Image: Getty)
She suggests putting it in your diary like any other appointment so it becomes a non-negotiable.
"It'll make sure you don't miss getting in some exercise, a yoga class or Pilates or whatever it is that makes you feel really good."

Breathe it out

Just like your physical health, looking after your mind and mental health is equally important, and with the extra stressors around Christmas, it can be easy to become overwhelmed if you don't know the tools to help prevent it from happening in the first place.
Erin's suggestion? Meditation.
"A lot of people know that meditation is going to be helpful for the mind, but don't know how to make it fit into their everyday life," Erin says.
"I always think of meditation as pretty much like showering – if we don't do it regularly then we kind of get a build-up and we get more overwhelmed, our mind gets busier and then it affects our sleep and then it affects our day and then we can't think clearly.
"If we can get in the habit of fitting a little bit of meditation or breathing every day it can become a routine – no different to brushing your teeth or having a shower."
She adds that there's usually a misconception that you have to allocate big chunks of your day to sitting down to meditate but Erin says it can be as short as five to 10 minutes, "little and often is key to keeping the mind clear."
WATCH: Meditation for inner peace. Story continues below...
If you do get to a point where you haven't been able to manage the stress and are feeling like everything is all too much, Erin says to remember to focus on your breath.
"Come back to long deep breathing and if you're really unconscious to it, you can even place your hand on your belly and making sure when you breathe in, your belly is rising and going out like a balloon and as you breathe out you can feel your belly button going in towards your spine.
"It's a really great way to just calm the whole nervous system and it takes you into the parasympathetic nervous system which is resting and digesting and calming, and you'll actually sleep better when you're in that state as well."

Fun in the sun

In New Zealand, Christmas also means summer, and while we should be well-versed in the need to slip, slop and slap, there are a few additional things we should keep in mind to stay healthy over the warmer months.
"In the summer months as it gets hotter it's really important that we stay hydrated as the body gets dehydrated quite easily, especially if we're exercising or are out in the ocean a lot, so make sure you're drinking lots of fluid.
"If you don't like water, which some people don't, then adding some fresh fruit – you might cut up some strawberries and put in a water bottle or some orange slices and it gives that slight flavoured taste to water which can help you drink more," Erin suggests.
In fact, a lot of the in-season produce are full of nutrients and water - think berries and stone fruits - and we're more likely to eat lighter meals likes salads during the hotter months, which can aid in hydration thanks to the fresh produces' high water content.
Naturopath Erin O'Hara with at one of her favourite places to be - the beach! (Image: Supplied)
While Erin says our skin does need some exposure to the sun to get vitamin D, it's only for a short window of time (particularly with the harsh UV rays in New Zealand) so ensure the rest of the time you're wearing lots of sunscreen, covering up with light-weight natural fibre fabrics or staying out of the sun in its peak hours in the middle of the day.
Erin says summer is a great time to be more active. According to traditional Chinese medicine, we naturally have more energy or yang, in the summertime, so we generally want to move our bodies more than we do in the middle of the winter when we're more sluggish.
So, there you have it. Follow these simple tips for a happy, healthy and fun summer and festive season.